The Unexpected Present


Anatomy of Anatomy

Grays Anatomy

Yuri and I bought the family homestead in Clifton, NJ in 2013 and appreciated many fascinating aspects of the city including it being one of the most diverse with over 81 languages spoken. Historically, between 1900-1907, the U. S. Animal Quarantine Station, aka the Ellis Island for animals was situated in Clifton, and for over fifty years, the station received foreign animals for quarantine.

In the late 1960s, the station closed and Clifton acquired the site that is now the Clifton Municipal Complex where some of the buildings have been rehabilitated to serve as fire headquarters, a senior center, an animal shelter, an arts center, and a most extraordinary recycling center.

We went to the recycling center regularly, like so many of our fellow residents. Organized and efficient, we followed the signs separating green, brown, clear glass, flattening cardboard, and tossing books and paper into large dumpsters. Sometimes, people wouldn’t have the heart to toss their books into the end-of-the-line abyss that echoed their dropping in an echoing thud. Many were left on the side with hopes that someone would rescue them. I, of course, became a rescuer and took home a massive tome, its dark green cover with gold lettering in perfect condition – Gray’s Anatomy. Mind-boggling.

Written by Henry Gray and illustrated by Henry Vandyke Carter, it was published in London in 1858, becoming the essential and accessible anatomy textbook for medical students. It took them eighteen months dissecting unclaimed bodies from workhouse and hospital morgues turning out this massive opus of one thousand four hundred and sixty-six pages. To this day, Gray’s Anatomy remains a must-have reference book of human anatomy for the med student. On the other hand, I used it to flatten out old curled-up photos. Mostly, it’s ron the bookshelf acting as a bookend keeping the others aligned in perfect posture.

Recently, I pulled it off the shelf and flipped through the sections of detailed, intricate drawings connecting the dots, interrelating the mechanics of the human body into a clearer picture of what Yuri is going through – respiratory system, breathing, the larynx, vocal cords, swallowing. Who could ever imagine how complex a simple act as swallowing could be? But that’s where we are because swallowing is one of the most complicated actions carried out. It’s imperative for life-sustaining nourishment. It’s also where he needs to be before delighting in eating real food instead of just dreaming about it.

The first part of Speech Pathology is the Instrumental Swallow Evaluation where Yuri failed as he was unable to tolerate ice chips. However, it wasn’t long before the regular daily treatments have him tolerating water and he’s up 50 hard swallows at a time just over the last day or two. This seemingly simple and automatic action involves the brain along with certain nerves and muscles. It has several steps that must occur in a precisely orchestrated three-part sequence, just like a three-part harmony– something that Yuri is well versed in and will come back to in the future.

While we celebrate this small victory, it just adds to the many therapies and medical treatments that lie ahead. A conference call with the Case Manager, Head Nurse, and Therapist keeps me up to date on his current physical status and medical prognosis as well as the percentage of assistance he needs currently and where he should be so that we can meet the target date of release. I am scheduled for training in the medical aspect as well as the physical therapy that will continue once we get home. It’s an incentive for me to start working out with weights so that we both will get back into shape. All in good time.

By the way, the Clifton Municipal complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 9, 1981. It is considered to be a threatened site. Hopefully, more rescues can always be made.


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